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The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell for a second week last week, suggesting labor market conditions continue to steadily improve.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 3,000 more applications received than previously reported. The four-week moving average for new claims rose 8,500 to 357,250.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 98,000 to 2.83 million in the week ended December 21.
A total 4.46 million people were receiving benefits under all programs in the week ended Dec 14.
But with benefits for more than a million long-term unemployed Americans having expired on December 28, that figure is set to fall sharply in the coming weeks. The loss of benefits could spur former recipients to either drop out of the labor force or accept jobs they previously would not have considered.